Homily Notes of Bishop Francis Duffy
At the Ordination of Rev. Seamus O’Rourke
St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford
21st June 2015
I recall reading a copy of ‘Siolta’, Maynooth College’s in-house magazine a few years ago. It listed the careers many students had pursued before answering God’s call to priesthood. It made fascinating reading such was the range of career paths. Seamus’ own journey is no less fascinating taking him from his native Colmcille to the Irish army, to the Army’s Signal Corps as an instructor and then to telecommunications. He served with the United Nations forces in Lebanon, the Civil Aviation Authority in Saudi Arabia and with British Airways in London. Then he spent eight years training technicians in Papua New Guinea. Finally, after many years of globetrotting, Seamus was back in Ireland. Throughout that time of varied employment on several continents Seamus had an attraction to the priesthood; it was an attraction that always remained fresh and constant. Seamus entered the seminary six years ago.
Every student for priesthood, every priest, has his own story, his own path in answer to God’s call. At the core of priesthood is Jesus Christ; loving him, listening to him and learning from him. Jesus Christ is at the centre of priesthood, not the priest, not the bishop, not the pope but Jesus Christ. It is his call, it is his message that we preach and it is he whom we serve.
In many ways answering God’s call is counter cultural. For some God is an irrelevance, for some an irritant and for others an invention. For those who have faith, God is the centre of all things. Answering God’s call, no matter what path we take in life, is something very natural for a believer, challenging and attractive, risky and rewarding, but fully within what it is to be a Christian.
Jesus continues to call to priesthood. Sometimes the call is hard to hear, and may need to be relayed by others. I notice that Seamus has publicly named Fr Peter Beglan as the person who echoed God’s call to him. I thank you Fr Peter for being God’s voice to Seamus, for giving those all-important first words of encouragement. God continues to call people, maybe here in this Cathedral, in our parishes, in our schools and third level colleges, in our football clubs and in our factories, on our farms and in our offices, among the employed and the unemployed, among those at home and those who have emigrated. Do not be afraid to answer God’s call, do not be afraid to explore the possibility and the opportunity; be assured, if God calls he will guide and support.
In a few moments the sacred oil of Chrism will be used to anoint Seamus’ hands. This anointing of hands is for the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick and also to bless. Our celebration of sacraments does not end in the church. It includes going out to and accompanying people at all times. Pope Francis spoke of the importance of preaching with ‘unction’. In other words preaching with images that soothe, a vocabulary that encourages and words that give hope.
Pope Francis also spoke about “the beauty of fraternity among priests.” He said that priests do not follow the Lord just as individuals, but as members of a community, with “a great variety of gifts and personalities.” Priestly fraternity, then, is a conscious choice to be cultivated by each priest in the one great mission of Christ. So is it a particular joy to welcome Seamus today among the ranks of priests of this diocese. I can assure you Seamus that you will be joining a group of dedicated and very joyful priests, as I’ve discovered. These are priests who, along with their predecessors, down through the generations, have gone out from their churches and presbyteries to be with all in need. Priests who have faithfully ministered and been mediators of the Good News of Jesus by their work and by their example; the oil of gladness has strengthened and reinvigorated them in their mission. That mission sometimes involves navigating through storms. Today’s gospel of Jesus calming the storm is a familiar story. It leaves us like the apostles asking, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him?” Who can this be? One feature of following the Lord is willingness to be surprised by him. Willingness to be brought down unfamiliar paths, and being open to finding God in the most unlikely places. Without that openness to surprise we can become tired, self-obsessed and grumpy.
This is a great time to be a Catholic priest, in Ireland. Every context presents opportunities as Pope Francis put it to ‘go out to the outskirts where there is suffering’. Today Seamus will be ordained to follow in the footsteps of the generations of disciples, footsteps made first in Colmcille guided by his parents Monica and John, then footsteps in many far flung places and now in this Cathedral saying ‘Yes’ to God. For your generosity and for your decision Seamus we give thanks.
- Bishop Francis Duffy is Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois